Tag Archive | Magic

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

Format: Hardcover
Rating:  5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

I had seen the movie Hugo some years back, not realising it was based on a book. When I discovered the book and saw some images of the pictures that form part of the story, I knew it was one I could read together with my daughter.

We thoroughly enjoyed the adventure with Hugo, learning about the train station he lived in, the mechanical man he works to fix, and its relationship with the old man who runs the toy booth. It was also interesting to have this fictitious account of Georges Melies and go away and learn about the real Georges Melies.

Selznick’s art is magnificent, and together with the prose makes this book an absolute pleasure to read. Rarely have I seen such absolutely gorgeous pencil drawings. Worth every penny.

The House that made the Sixteen Loops of Time by Tamsyn Muir

Source: Own Collection
Format: Hardcover
Rating:  4 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

Dr. Rosamund Tilly lives at 14 Arden Lane, a house with issues. But not the kinds of issues you’re thinking of, I’m sure. This house is a magical house, and it has temper tantrums. If things aren’t going precisely as it desires, then, well, take your pick. Pretty much anything can happen, from creepers overgrowing to the dogs’ coats changing colour. Sounds like a recipe for driving any rational human being insane, right? Well, spare a thought for Rosamund – and her family.

So, one day the house isn’t happy, and comes up with a new scheme. Instead of changing anything, it just decides to put time on replay. For sixteen loops. And only Rosamund is aware of what’s going on.

This is quite a humorous story, really, and I lapped it up. The house’s antics are fascinating, and Rosamund’s patience with it is… admirable. Fortitude, really. An entertaining romp that left me with a smile on my face at the end.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Source: Own Collection
Format: Kindle
Rating:  5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

I finally picked this up, and what a delight. Inventive and creative, Gaiman blends English folklore and nursery rhymes with an entirely original story that is delightfully related in this fantastical tale of heroism driven by love.

Living on the edge of a magic land has its advantages and disadvantages, and that’s what the inhabitants of the village of Wall experience. When Tristran Thorn sees a falling star, he vows to retrieve that exact star for the woman he loves in order to win her hand. However, when he has to go through the wall to locate it, he begins to learn that life isn’t all he thought it was. To complicate matters, he isn’t the only one out to catch a falling star.

I particularly loved that, while I thought I had it all worked out, I found I hadn’t, which is what makes Gaiman the outstanding storyteller he is.

North Child by Edith Pattou

North ChildSource: Own Collection
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

In the rural villages of Norway, there is an ancient belief that children inherit the qualities of the direction in which they are born. Nyamh Rose, the last daughter of eight siblings born to a poor mapmaker and his superstitious wife, was a North-born baby. It is said that North-born babies are wild, unpredictable, intelligent, and destined to break their mothers’ hearts because they all leave hearth and home to travel to the far ends of the earth. To keep her close, Rose’s mother lied and told her she had been born of the obedient and pliable East. But destiny cannot be denied. One day, a great white bear comes to the mapmaker’s door to claim Rose’s birthright.

What an absolutely beautiful story! I see it’s generally classified as a YA read, and I guess that’s because Rose, the main character, is YA. But really, I’m not sure most teens would have the stamina for this one. It’s a long book, no doubt about it. But a very rewarding, vividly written tale that is educational as much as it is spell-binding.

Rose’s mother is very superstitious. With her father and grandfather having been mapmakers, she knows all about the points of the compass. And one of the things she’s adamant about is that the direction a baby is born in determines their character/personality/destiny. And she vows never to have a child born North, because northern babies are wanderers. Then, one stormy day, Rose is born. Rose is born North, but her mother refuses to admit it, so says that she was born East – since she was to replace an East-born child who died.

It is clear from early on, though, that Rose is indeed a North child, as she has a wanderlust that nothing can curb, but her mother does her utmost to train Rose to be a good East. Quiet, at home, doing crafts. Actually, Rose does excel at one craft – loom weaving – and initially makes herself a cloak with her compass rose on it – the compass rose her map-making father designed for her at birth. One of Rose’s deepest desires is to ride on the back of a snow bear.

And then one terrible day Rose discovers the lie her parents have perpetuated – the lie of her birth – and the snow bear comes to claim her. Her anger at her parents drives her to leave with the snow bear, and they travel away together to a castle the bear lives in.

This story comes complete with trolls, talking snow bears, a storm at sea and a place that is East of the sun and West of the moon. Based on “East of the Sun and West of the Moon”, Pattou takes the original folklore and embellishes it beautifully. With what appears to be excellent research and investigation into the locales and cultures involved, and with a vivid writing style that conveys all the detail without weighing the story down, this story is truly wonderful. I kept getting flashbacks to my childhood days reading The Snow Queen. Now I know that’s a completely different story, but that sense of adventure, of travelling from place to place in pursuit of a loved one… and ending up in the far north… that’s what I was picking up on. I know I’ve actually read “East of the Sun and West of the Moon” in its original form, but have very little recollection of it.

I’d say this is a must read if you’re into folk tales, fairy tales, Norwegian folklore and talking snow bears! Fabulous stuff!

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling

Harry Potter Philosophers StoneSource: Borrowed from a friend
Format: Hardback
Rating:  4 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

Harry Potter is an ordinary boy who lives in a cupboard under the stairs at his Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon’s house, which he thinks is normal for someone like him who’s parents have been killed in a ‘car crash’. He is bullied by them and his fat, spoilt cousin Dudley, and lives a very unremarkable life with only the odd hiccup (like his hair growing back overnight!) to cause him much to think about. That is until an owl turns up with a letter addressed to Harry and all hell breaks loose! He is literally rescued by a world where nothing is as it seems and magic lessons are the order of the day. Read and find out how Harry discovers his true heritage at Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft, the reason behind his parents mysterious death, who is out to kill him, and how he uncovers the most amazing secret of all time, the fabled Philosopher’s Stone! All this and muggles too. Now, what are they?

Well now. It only took me 19 (yes, nineteen!) years to get around to reading this book. Which will come as a surprise to many, as I’m not one averse to fantasy stories. Have to give a huge shout-out to fans among my friends who did NOT let on the spoilers for this book. I walked in a complete ignoramus, and was pleasantly surprised.

What happens when your relatives despise your very nature, and that of your parents? What happens when you’re famous, but you have no clue why, or how? What happens when one day you’re an ordinary boy (well, one can’t really call Harry Potter ordinary, considering the abuse he suffers at the hands of Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon…), and the next you discover that you have magic, and there’s a whole magical world out there you never knew about?

These questions – and many others – are answered in the pages of this book. I wouldn’t say that it’s an outstanding book that really appealed to me, BUT I can totally get why children read and love it. Definitely an excellent children’s book, one that captures the imagination and sets the world on fire… ooops, I didn’t say that, did I? At times reminiscent of Roald Dahl’s dry humour, and devilishly inventive, this was a lot of fun to read.

And yes. I will pick up the next book. In time.